Pamela Mcguire, Butcher, Kimberly
This article was written by Kimberly Butcher, Assistant Extension Agent, Ouachita and Morehouse Parishes.
Staying in control of your diet helps contribute to good health now and as you age. Making healthier eating choices is one of the best ways to prevent or avoid health problems. Eating a balanced diet and getting enough physical activity can help you decrease your risk of health problems like heart disease, diabetes, obesity and more. To reach your health goals, you should start by making small gradual changes over time.
Eating a variety of foods from MyPlate will help you stay on track with healthy eating. You want to make sure that your plate has a variety of colors and that you vary your protein for each meal. Each color vegetable and fruit contain different vitamins, fiber and minerals that your body needs to function properly and maintain your health. Along with eating a variety of fruits, vegetables and proteins you also want to focus on low-fat dairy options and whole grains.
In addition to following the MyPlate guidelines there are other things you should monitor, the first being solid fats. Many Americans consume too many foods high in fats, particularly solid fats. Solid fats can clog your arteries and veins and add extra calories to your diet. Those extra calories are adding inches to the waistlines of many Americans. In turn, our risk of developing chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers, increases.
Another food component we should eat less of is added sugar. Most sugars in a typical American diet come from sugars that are "added" to foods and beverages during processing, preparation, or at the table. Did you know the average American consumes almost 26 teaspoons of added sugars a day? Typically, foods and drinks that are high in added sugars often supply calories but offer few or no essential nutrients and no dietary fiber. Due to this, added sugars in food and beverages contributes to a high percentage of obesity in the United States.
It is also recommended that Americans reduce the amount of sodium in our diets. Sodium, or salt as it is commonly known, is needed for the body to function properly. Your body uses sodium to control blood pressure, manage fluids in the body and help your muscles and nerves work properly. Most of us already consume more salt than is needed. Excessive sodium intake increases blood pressure. Likewise, decreasing sodium intake decreases blood pressure. It is important to keep your blood pressure in the normal range, so you do not develop hypertension (high blood pressure), heart disease or kidney disease.
To stay on track with your health goals remember to balance your calories by enjoying your food, but eating less, and avoiding oversized portions. Make half your plate fruits and vegetables and at least half your grains whole grains. Switch to fat-free or low fat one percent milk and choose lean meats when possible. Reduce your sodium, fat and transfat intake by limiting your consumption of processed foods and frozen dinners. Choose water first instead of a sugary drink to reduce the amount of sugar you consume.
The old saying "you are what you eat" is true. What you eat and drink becomes the building blocks for all the cells in your body. Over time, your food and drink choices make a difference in your health. Remember to make gradual changes to help you stick to your health goals. A small change today, can be a big change for your future.
This article is referenced by the LSU AgCenter, MyPlate.gov and usda.gov.
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